When you look up how important protein is for weight loss online, article after article will tell you of its dire importance. There are various success stories and plans that revolve around a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet—but it can be difficult to get a high amount of protein into your daily eating habits when the food industry has largely failed us in terms of transparency.
So, how exactly can you make sure to get your recommended 30 percent protein per day? By making some swaps—check them out below!
Instead of your daily bowl of cereal for breakfast, swap in some Greek yogurt: Cereal is delicious, no one’s denying that, but the food industry has largely kept us in the dark on what exactly is a healthy cereal. Rather than risk eating a day’s or even two days’ worth of sugar in a single breakfast, swap out your cereal for some Greek yogurt. You need to make sure that said Greek yogurt does not have added flavoring or sugars and has a sufficient amount of protein (look at what Susan Bowerman, the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, says here). A few great choices are Fage Total 2% Greek yogurt, Chobani Vanilla Simply 100, and Oikos Plain Greek yogurt. Remember, you want to start your day off on the right foot, so don’t give into flavored and sugary yogurts or you won’t be eating any sufficient protein!
Instead of a morning snack of a chewy granola bar, swap in a protein bar: Granola bars are delicious (especially when they have a ton of chocolate), but they usually aren’t all that great for your gains. For example, Quaker’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars may be a staple of childhood, but hold 7 grams of sugar and contain high fructose corn syrup. Not the best for a healthy lifestyle. Instead of eating one of these, grab a protein bar (check out factors on how to pick protein bars here). A good recommendation is the Detour Smart Bar brand, which has flavors ranging from Apple Cinnamon to Blueberry (yummy!).
Instead of a salad packed with cheese, swap in chicken, tuna or a hard-boiled egg: Cheese should be a staple of all lives (apologies to the lactose intolerant) but isn’t good in large amounts frequently. It could be viewed as a protein by some, but it is more largely tied to being a fat—which, while necessary in your diet in small amounts, doesn’t mean you can eat a block of night cheese while watching reruns after work. Hence, instead of dressing your salad up with some cheddar or feta, why not get some more (and better) protein in the form of a lean meat? If chicken, tuna or a hard-boiled egg aren’t your style, throw in some baked teriyaki tofu—you won’t regret it!
Instead of an afternoon snack of Cheez-Its or a party snack mix, swap in a handful of almonds: Cheez-Its, snack packs and other chips and trail mixes are fun for sure, but you shouldn’t be eating any of them too often. Each of these holds a great deal of unnatural ingredients, often making you hungrier than you really are and continuing an unfortunate cycle of bad eating. Give up the big red bag of yummy for something just as tasty, but with a ton more protein: almonds. One serving of almonds, about 1/4 cup, amounts to about 5 grams of protein—which, yes, isn’t a lot, but every gram of protein helps you get to your necessary 30 percent per day! If you’re not up for just eating the nuts plain, blend them with some greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or a piece of fruit—you’re on your way to healthy!
Instead of a plate of pasta for dinner, ditch the carbs for a swap of fish or lean meat: Yes, we all love pasta, especially if we’re Joey Tribbiani, but making your last meal of the day focused on a high carb meal is not good for your mind, body or soul. Instead of treating yourself to pretending to be Italian and fancy, focus your meal around a piece of fish or lean meat. Three ounces of tilapia, for instance, will give you 23 grams of protein, while grilled chicken breast could amount to upwards of 50 grams of protein. Check out some protein-themed boards on Pinterest for other ideas on what to cook up for your dinner!
Instead of a late cookie or ice cream, swap for another protein bar or Greek yogurt: Just as you started out the day, you can end it. Instead of reaching for that “light” or “low-fat” dessert—which can have more than half a day’s worth of sugar—get some protein in the form of Greek yogurt or a protein bar. You don’t want to mess up your entire progress from the day with a silly sugar crash!
Obviously, each day is different, and you don’t want to confine yourself the same meals over and over again—you’d go mad. Instead, take a larger view at what you can skip out on in favor of protein. It’s very beneficial to have the majority of your diet focus on protein rather than carbohydrates and fats—so remember that the next time you fix a meal! Good luck!